Can The Farmland In Southern Maryland Be Saved? (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Can The Farmland In Southern Maryland Be Saved?

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:08
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Jonathan Wilson, in for Rebecca Sheir, and today we're hitting the road, putting D.C. in the rearview mirror and heading out to the more pastoral parts of our region, with a show we're calling, "Town and Country."

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:29
We'll put on our raingear and hike through a swamp that's home to all sorts of salamanders.

MS. KIM TERRELL

00:00:34
The highlights for me was definitely turning over a rock and finding four long-tailed salamanders.

WILSON

00:00:41
And we'll hear about one town's victory in its long-running effort to save its elementary school.

MS. CHERYL HUTCHISON

00:00:46
Once you start taking away stuff from the small villages, you start losing the villages. We become just a pass-through on a road.

WILSON

00:00:55
Plus, we'll look at crime and punishment, as practiced in 19th-century Virginia. And we'll head even further back in time, as we visit an Eastern Shore community whose ferry has been running for 331 years.

MR. TOM BIXLER

00:01:09
We’re standing on the bridge of the ferry. It doesn't get any prettier. The sun's shining, 75 degrees.

WILSON

00:01:21
But first, we're going to head into southern Maryland and into the farmlands and marshlands around the Wicomico River. Now, we should state, for the record, that there are two Wicomico Rivers in Maryland, one on the eastern shore, and one on the western shore. And it's the latter river that we're talking about today, the one that reaches into St. Mary's County off of the Potomac River.

WILSON

00:01:41
It's the landscape where Nancy Wolfe has spent just about all of her life. She's the last member of a family of famers, a family that has watched as Maryland farmland disappeared and young people have chosen other careers. Wolfe says she knows that gradual change is inevitable for southern Maryland. She says she wants to do her part to make sure some of the open spaces she grew up with stay, well, open.

WILSON

00:02:04
Her family used to own farmland in Clinton, Maryland, but now that land is on the verge of being developed as the D.C. suburbs continue to expand -- a sight that she says will break her heart. It's why she's taking the 1600 acres her family left her in southern Maryland, and turning it over to the newly created Wicomico Valley Foundation of Southern Maryland, a foundation she started less than a year ago. I met her outside on a breezy day, near the banks of Allens Fresh, a tributary of the Wicomico River.

MS. NANCY WOLFE

00:02:35
Well, we're in a marshy area, at the beginnings of the Wicomico River in Allens Fresh. So we have a lot of open water in front of us. We also have marsh across the river. This is actually considered, technically, Allens Fresh Run. And a run is basically a stream. Depending on how far up it is, it could be very narrow, that you jump across, and here you'd need to take a boat.

WILSON

00:02:58
What was your upbringing like?

WOLFE

00:03:02
My father was a farmer. Both sides of my grandparents were farmers. My mother's side of the family was from Clinton. My father's side of the family was in Brandywine. Although, we're now here in Charles and St. Mary's County now. So it's just been life on the farm.

WILSON

00:03:19
How did this whole process get started in your mind?

WOLFE

00:03:22
Well, I already had the land. My brother and I, neither one of us had children. So I had to decide what's gonna happen with this land that I have grown so very attached to -- I'm being the sentimental one, you know. So that's when I got the idea of the foundation, so that I would feel that it's protected, and I would know -- even though, of course, once I'm dead I won't know, won't be able to do anything, but I'll have some control over what happens to it. That I'll know it's not going to be a housing development.

WILSON

00:03:53
What do you hope preserving this land and creating this foundation will do for people who are not, you know, in your family? What do you hope -- what's your goal and what do you hope that the foundation can accomplish?

WOLFE

00:04:05
Preserving the agricultural opportunities for everybody. We're hoping that we may even partner with the University of Maryland's Institute of Applied Agriculture, for educational purposes. And to give people in general the opportunity to come out and enjoy nature and wildlife and an open space that doesn't have something else – a house, you know, 200 feet away.

WOLFE

00:04:32
Even that's a generous amount for some subdivisions, but some neighborhoods. Just keeping it open space and a place for nature to be, you know, wildlife to be, have a preserve.

WILSON

00:04:47
When you drive around, you know, what is your home turf, and you see a new housing development go up or some townhouses on a place that you used to know as a farm or farmland, how does that make you feel? Do you get, you know, either regretful, angry?

WOLFE

00:05:05
I don't get angry. I get more sad because I usually -- especially if it's somebody whose farm I have visited. I have memories of the things that we used to do there or the person associated with that farm. And I think, "Oh, what would so-and-so think if they could see their farm looking like this?" Because the person, frequently, is dead by now. So, yeah, I do get kind of sad.

WILSON

00:05:31
And what do you think they would think? I mean, some of these, you know, friends and relatives that have moved on, have passed on, if they saw some of the development now? Yeah, I mean, do you think that people would be surprised? You know, your parents, would they be surprised? Or do people, you know, around here kind of understand that that's what has to happen or not?

WOLFE

00:05:53
I think they understand that that's -- they feel like it's going to happen, it's inevitable, but it always makes them sad to see it happen. My aunt, who lived on that farm in Clinton, she said she knew that farm was going to be developed -- and my uncle, too, for that matter -- but she didn't want to be around to see it happen. And she is dead now, so she's not going to see it happen, but I will. And I'm going to cry. So I haven't been back to look yet, but they also haven't started building yet either.

WILSON

00:06:27
But in the process of starting?

WOLFE

00:06:28
Yeah, they know how many lots they're going to have and the whole works.

WILSON

00:06:33
Yeah, what makes you emotional, just the memories?

WOLFE

00:06:38
Well, I'm a sentimental person any way. So the memories and what it meant to the whole family. That farm in Clinton, I know my ancestors moved there in 1840. So, because I am sentimental, you know, and I'm into family history and genealogy, and so that's part of the family story.

WILSON

00:07:08
That was Nancy Wolfe, the founder of the Wicomico Valley Foundation of Southern Maryland. Do you or a member of your family work in agriculture? What do you see as the future of farming in our region? You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or find us on Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.
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